Pain Relief During Labor: Care Instructions

Skip Navigation


You can choose from a few types of pain relief for childbirth. These types include:

  • Medical. Your doctor or midwife may offer different types of pain medicine while you are in labor.
  • Nonmedical. This can include things like breathing techniques and massage.

You also can use more than one of these choices.

Think about what you want during labor. Your personal needs are important when you make this choice. The right choice is the one that feels right to you. Every labor is different. You may go into labor planning to use nonmedical options only and later find that you need pain medicine. For example, you will be given medicines if you need a cesarean (C-section). Plan for what you want. But be aware that things can change during labor.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

What medical options can you use for pain relief?

Here are some medicines that you may be able to choose for pain control during childbirth.

  • Spinal and epidural pain relief. A doctor injects medicine into a space around the spinal cord. This is called an epidural. A spinal is an injection of medicine into the spinal fluid. It works faster than an epidural. In some cases, a doctor combines a spinal with an epidural.
  • I.V. medicines. These are medicines given through a vein. They don't stop pain completely.
  • Nitrous oxide. You can give yourself nitrous oxide through a mask when you need pain relief.
  • Pudendal block. You get a shot of medicine to numb the area around the vaginal opening.

What are some examples?

Nonmedical pain relief includes:

  • Support. Having a doula or support person with you may help you manage your pain better.
  • Breathing techniques. Breathing in a rhythm can distract you from pain. Childbirth classes can teach you how to do focused breathing.
  • Distraction. You can walk, play cards, listen to music, watch TV, take a shower, or read. These can help take your mind off your contractions.
  • Massage. You can ask someone to massage your shoulders and lower back during contractions.
  • Changing positions. This can help you be more comfortable.
  • Imagery. You can imagine a peaceful place. For instance, you can think of contractions as waves rolling over you.
  • Laboring in water. Soaking in warm water may help ease stress in early labor.
  • Acupuncture. This treatment during labor may help you manage pain.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You want to learn more about pain relief.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter J372 in the search box to learn more about "Pain Relief During Labor: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.